Crist campaigns for new property tax plan

10/30/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Less than 24 hours after the Legislature placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist began a blitzkrieg campaign to advocate for the measure, making media stops with homeowners in Jacksonville, Port St.Lucie, and Orlando today.

Crist says he expects immediate benefits from the plan because he says, it offers hope to Florida property owners.

The House voted Monday night to accept the Senate changes to its property tax plan and later overwhelming approved placing the proposal on the Jan. 29 ballot.

But there will be opposition. The Portability plan will cut funding for schools – how much isn’t clear, although the Miami Herald reported it would be about $2.5 billion dollars over five years.

The Teachers Union has said it will oppose the plan, and Crist admitted today he will have to work hard to turn the union around.

The Senate passed a stripped down package of property tax cuts today, giving all homeowners an additional $240 break, letting homeowners transfer their "Save our Homes" benefit to new houses and giving non-homesteaders a 10-percent cap on part of their annual assessment increases.

That 10-percent cap is the first time that business owners, landlords and so-called snowbirds whose Florida homes are their vacation retreats will get a tax break.

But they’re not exactly overjoyed, according to Gerry Brissenden, president of the Canadian Snowbird Association.

Last week in the House, proposals on non-homesteaded properties included caps of 7, 5 or 3 percent, which would be the same as homesteaded properties as part of the Save Our Homes 1992 Amendment. But instead, the Senate put the cap at 10 percent.

Brissenden said the reason snowbirds weren’t addressed by the Legislature is because most of them aren’t registered to vote in Florida. But he says they can still express their displeasure with Florida politicians.

Brissenden said he was treated royally by former Gov. Jeb Bush, but has yet to get a meeting with Charlie Crist. He said the property tax reform legislation has ignored the snowbird from Canada and within the U.S., and that disdain will ultimately hurt the Florida economy.

Crist said today he believes the tax cut will fire up Florida's economy, which has been slowed down by a sluggish housing market.

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